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Carlsbad is strengthening the city's rules surrounding e-bikes and other similar motorized devices.
Carlsbad is strengthening the city's rules surrounding e-bikes and other similar motorized devices. Courtesy photo
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Carlsbad tightens e-bike ordinance amid rising collision rates

CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad City Council on March 22 approved an amendment to the city’s municipal code in response to a rising number of collisions involving e-bikes and other mobility devices.

Since 2019, e-bike collisions have skyrocketed to 186 reported incidents, according to the Carlsbad Police Department, a majority of which were determined to be the operator’s fault. Of those incidents, 163 resulted in injury.

“The police department, along with the citizens of Carlsbad, has seen an increase of e-bikes, scooters upon our public roadways and it’s caused us great concern because of the number of collisions involved,” said Sgt. Scott Meritt of the Carlsbad Police.

Meritt said the department has received an increase in calls regarding dangerous behavior, speed and other issues, especially with younger residents.

Law enforcement also reported 99 collisions from Jan. 2020 through July 2021. Among those reported incidents, e-bike or mobility device operators were at fault 72 times. Meritt also reported the number of collisions increased from 39 in 2020 to 63 in 2021.

As of the March 22 meeting, Meritt said there have been 19 collisions this year, which is “on pace for an exceptional number of collisions.”

Marissa Kawecki, deputy city attorney, said the ordinance establishes definitions for e-bicycles and other regulated mobility devices and prohibitions on where they can be used. The ordinance also requires riders to use due care, reduce speed when necessary for safety, follow all rules of the road and dismount their mobility device on narrow trails (less than 5 feet wide) when within 50 feet of a pedestrian or horseback rider.

“Our ordinance will capture several different types of conduct,” Kawecki said. “It will also capture all these different vehicle types … and try to decide what to charge. He or she can now charge globally.”

Those “regulated mobility devices,” are now defined as bicycles, electric bicycles, electric personal assistive mobility devices, electrically motorized boards, low-speed vehicles, motorized scooters, shared mobility devices and other similar vehicles.

Meritt said the new ordinance prohibits operators from riding on sidewalks, public drainage facilities, athletic courts or gymnasiums, although individuals can walk across those areas without being charged.

Many other California cities, including San Diego, San Marcos, San Clemente, Santa Monica, Newport Beach, Folsom and more have already enacted similar ordinances regulating the operation of e-bicycles and other “regulated mobility devices,” Kawecki said.

Individuals found in violation may either be charged with a traffic violation or crime, depending on the severity of the offense, or be required to enroll in a safety course for regulated mobility devices.

Malcom Warfield, who coordinates Carlsbad Police’s juvenile diversion program, said the Smart Cycling Education Program by the League of American Bicyclists best represents the city’s goal of improving e-bike safety and educating those wanting to learn more.

Warfield said the program covers all age ranges.

“We do have to take into consideration some basic understanding,” Warfield said. “Those are some of the considerations were taking. It’s still in development.”